Is ASMR a Sex Thing?

The answer is no, not necessarily ... but also yes, sometimes. We'll explain.

February 11, 2021 9:59 am
Like most things, ASMR can be about sex if you want it to.
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It turns out ladies with long fingernails unboxing and playing with new iPhones is my sexual preference — something I learned after stumbling across this video and having my first ASMP experience. It’s not porn, per se, but videos like this one — particularly those involving tapping and swishing sounds — gives me a sense of low-grade euphoria. I get chills from the top of my head, down my spine and right through my genitals. 

As a sex researcher, this discovery led me to an obvious question: Does ASMR make people horny? Like, I know it makes me horny, but is this an experience other people are also enjoying in this way? The recent rise of actual ASMR porn — a once niche genre that is beginning to enter the mainstream porn world with projects like Erika Lust’s new production, ASMR: The Sound of Sex — suggests the answer is yes. 

But, again, as a sex researcher, I wasn’t content with that knowledge alone. If ASMR does, in fact, make people horny, that leads us to yet another question: why? So I took a deep dive into ASMR and its connection to our sexual response cycle, because yes, there is one.

What is ASMR?

First of all, you might be wondering the hell ASMR even is. This is not unusual, as even the non-erotic stuff has only recently made it into the mainstream. However, you’ve likely had plenty of experiences with ASMR without even realizing it. ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response.” This may sound fancy, but it’s essentially a sensation of spine tingling and euphoria that people experience when exposed to certain sounds, visuals or physical touch. 

In most cases, ASMR is linked to an audio-visual trigger, like my video of choice where hot women open and tap their long, luxurious nails on freshly minted iPhones. 

Basically, you hear certain soft sounds, (opening packages, whispering, eating certain foods slowly) feel certain types of touch, (a feather run over your skin, light massage) or see certain things (such as shibari rope tying or someone completing a puzzle) and this makes the brain happy, leading to that spine-tingling bliss down your whole body. 

That said, ASMR isn’t for everyone; it can be divisive. People are generally super into it or super not into it. “Some people do not even want to interact with ASMR, as they find it off-putting,” says Mia Sabat, a sex therapist at Emjoy, a sexual wellness audio app for women. “Those who do find ASMR appealing, however, often note that they experience a state of mental relaxation, and tingling in the scalp and neck which can sometimes spread throughout their body.”

A 2018 study found ASMR “caused the participants’ heart rate to decrease and skin conductance levels to increase, an indicator of the relaxing effect of this brain-tingling sensation. Some researchers have also likened it to a head orgasm,” says Sandra Larson, RN, a nurse, relationship expert and the co-founder of My Sex Toy Guide, a hub for sexual health and wellness content.

It doesn’t take much digging to find hundreds of ASMR YouTube videos. It’s a massive community that even has its own celebrities, like ASMR star Heather Feather, who has over 530,000 followers. Interest in ASMR has exploded in recent years — just look at this chart.

Relaxing, tingly and … horny? 

While there isn’t a particularly large body of existing research on the connection between ASMR and sex, experts agree that for those who enjoy it and find it relaxing, it certainly has the potential to create an environment that is conducive for arousal. “What’s more, the relaxation and stimulation can lead to more intimacy and pleasure during sex,” Larson says.

According to The Origin Theory of ASMR, the brain and body release the same feel-good chemicals during ASMR stimulation as those released during sexual arousal: serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. Hence, all the euphoria ASMR enthusiasts often report.

“ASMR can function similarly to a mindfulness exercise, by bringing the listener’s attention to the present through sound,” says Sarah Melancon, Ph.D, a sociologist, clinical sexologist and resident expert at The Sex Toy Collective. It “heightens sensitivity to sounds that we typically ignore [or] tune out on a daily basis. For those who enjoy ASMR, this sensory sensitivity may spread to other senses, which may make touch or sensations inside the body more vivid, contributing to a feeling of sexual arousal.”

The way ASMR affects people can vary wildly. Some may find it off-putting, some may feel neutral, others may find it soothing, and some may feel, well, horny. Human sexuality is interesting like that; people are into different things for different reasons. “Why do some people eroticize certain senses while others don’t?” asks Carol Queen, PhD, the staff sexologist at Good Vibrations. “I don’t think we have a solid answer to that question, but it does underlie the fact that our sexualities are, in the fine points, unique to us.”

Do try this at home

The first step in figuring out if ASMR is a turn-on for you, personally, is to simply give it a try. Check out some videos on YouTube. Again, there are about a billion to choose from. 

You’ll likely know pretty quickly whether or not this is for you. If you get an “ick” reaction and can’t stand it, you’re probably not an ASMR person — and that’s perfectly fine. You just learned something new about yourself, congrats.

But for those who do find ASMR strikes their fancy and want to explore its sexual potential, here are a few tips for incorporating ASMR into you sex life. 

Try listening to erotic-focused ASMR 

These are ASMR videos that are designed for sex, specifically. “Many people that experience arousal with ASMR often say that videos where people are whispering are their favorite,” Sabat says. “This could be because we often whisper when we have something very intimate to say. For many, whispering is probably the first sexual ASMR connection that their brains make.”

Use physical touch

Have you ever had someone tickle or rub your arms, scratch your head, or massage you in a way that felt so good it was almost orgasmic? This is an ASMR response. In the bedroom, try using a feather tickler and run it over your partner’s body. Get some lovely smelling organic massage oils and engage in loving, erotic massage.

Speak in whispers during sex

Re-create your favorite ASMR videos with your own voice. Speak softly. Try whispering in your partner’s ear (maybe while you’re massaging them). Moan gently. There’s no end to what you can try.

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